Microsoft's crown jewel is moving into release. Late last week, the Office 2010 suite of business applications was released to manufacturing (RTM) along with SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010, and Project 2010.
As noted by Microsoft corporate Vice President Takeshi Numoto on the Office 2010 engineering blog, "RTM is the final engineering milestone of a product release." The suite was first released as a public beta last November, and Microsoft said more than 7.5 million people -- three times the number for Office 2007 -- have downloaded the beta version.
Official Launch on May 12
Volume-license customers with active Software Assurance (SA) for these products will be able to download them through the Volume Licensing Service Center, beginning April 27. May 1 is the date that customers without SA can begin purchasing through volume licensing from Microsoft's partners.
The official launch is scheduled for May 12, when there will be product demos, testimonials and interviews with members of the project team. In June, the apps will become available in retail stores in the U.S., although pre-ordering can be done now.
In the feedback received from the millions of beta users, Microsoft said 90 percent found the new suite to be an improvement over the current version.
Among other well-received new features and enhancements, Numoto noted that users felt the Backstage view makes the suite a "better overall experience." Backstage allows a user to organize all the features and capabilities for a given document for easy access to sharing, printing, permission management, and other functions.
'Compelling' Interoperability Features
Another feature popular among beta users is Conversation View, which lets the Outlook in-box and other mail folders be organized by date and conversation. Messages with the same subject, for instance, can appear as expanded or collapsed threads of a conversation.
In Excel, a new graphical representation of data that fits in a cell, called Sparklines, is popular, and about 80 percent of beta users say they have used the web versions of Office.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp., said other notable enhancements in the newest Office include a "refined usability," increased security, "great real-time collaboration," a background removal tool, the ability to edit video within an app like PowerPoint, a "smart art" template, and a file format that is more widely compatible than the docx format in Office 2007. Overall, she noted, "the interoperability features are the most compelling."
But the "big picture," DiDio said, "is that they are under the gun to respond to Google's web apps," and Microsoft is doing that with the web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Users can work on the files online and then, with more functionality, on the desktop version.
To compete with Google's free apps, a free, "starter version" of Office with ads will be available on new PCs.
Posted: 2010-04-19 @ 12:38pm PT
Some of the points made by the article are definitely valid. I have tested Office 2010's beta for a while and it works quite well. Outlook is now on par with the rest of the suite and has some nice features to track correspondences much better. Amazon apparently has some serious discounts on Office 2010 if you get a product keycard instead of the physical editions. The prices seem pretty good to me, given that we are talking about full versions here and not upgrade versions.I went ahead and ordered a copy for my own home use. It was definitely nice to be able to test out the beta first, which has been very stable and user friendly for me in the past several months.